Sure, you might know the origin of that organic muenster cheese you have in the fridge but do you know if the wooden cutting board you’ve been chopping it up on came from ethically harvested materials? Or was the material treated with any harmful chemicals? Rest assured. Southern California-based Totally Bamboo offers a range of bamboo kitchenware products ($4 to $195) with a high green profile. The "moso" bamboo used in these products is not a food source for the Giant Panda. The glue used does not contain any toxic formaldehyde, unlike many conventional wares. In these uncertain times it’s refreshing to come across a product that is a truly non-toxic, cost-effective and ecologically responsible alternative to the widespread clear cutting of our world’s vanishing timberland.
CONTACT: Totally Bamboo, (818)505-0159, www.totallybamboo.com.
What is Intelligent Nutrients? It is chocolate bars, nutritional supplements, and digestifs. It is coffee, aromatherapy, agave sweetener, and Icelandic sea salt. But the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. "It is lifestyle," says founder Horst Rechelbacher, who also founded Aveda. "The body and environment are one in the same. We share the same constitution, so we share the same needs." Intelligent Nutrients (prices vary) nourishes the body through organic and biodynamic plant-derived products; in particular, those botanical substances that both give pleasure and offer nutritional benefits. Rechelbacher started with chocolate, which contains antioxidants, and infused it with essential oils of lavender, mandarin and chamomile to create a line of "Organic Chocolate Neutraceuticals." He went on to apply these principles to a wide range of products—all of which are available at the Intelligent Nutrients shop in Minneapolis and on the company website. Intelligent Nutrients even sells jewelry because, as Rechelbacher notes, to feel beautiful is to feel healthy. And vice versa.
CONTACT: Intelligent Nutrients, (800)311-5635, www.intelligentnutrients.com.
FROM FARM TO BOWL
Fairfield Farm Kitchens, pioneers of organic heat-and-serve entrées, are kicking things up a notch with their new line Organic Classics Refrigerated soups. These yummy treats put an organic spin on some old favorites such as chicken noodle and seafood chowder. All meats and vegetables are USDA-certified organic, and the seafood is caught in the wild. What’s more, the company teamed up with the famous Moosewood Restaurant of Ithaca, New York to bring Moosewood’s vegetarian soup recipes into your kitchen. Savory delights include broccoli-cheese, mushroom-barley and Texas two-bean chile. The soups ($4.99) are made fresh and vacuum sealed in pint containers, which are also microwavable. While many canned natural soups tend to be thin and bland, Organic Classics and Moosewood soups are hearty and well seasoned. Now we don’t need to travel to Ithaca or grandma’s house for warm, soupy goodness.
CONTACT: Fairfield Farm Kitchens, (877)400-5997, ext. 358, www.fairfieldfarmkitchens.com.
NOT JUST ANOTHER CALENDAR
It is midwinter and maybe you’re not so in love with that calendar your aunt bought you for Christmas. Instead of wasting the rest of the year staring at something that is less than beautiful, treat yourself to Carol Freeman‘s 2005 calendar, "In Beauty, I Walk" ($17.95). Twelve pages of stunning, close-up images will leave you spellbound by the wonders of the natural world. Several of the photos depict endangered species, such as the yellow-lipped ladies" tresses orchid, and the northern harrier, but even more stunning is the close-up of a hover fly on a balloon flower. The calendar is printed on recycled paper and a portion of all profits go to The Nature Conservancy.
CONTACT: Carol Freeman Photography, (847)404-8508, www.carolfreemanphotography.com.
NOT GRANDMA’S GRANOLA
Welcome all granola-heads! Connecticut-based Bear Naked is taking granola to new heights. Bear Naked granola ($4.99 for 12 ounces) is a veritable meal in a bag. Its formula, which is wheat and dairy free and high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and complex carbohydrates, might leave the impression that it must be a little too healthy to taste good. Fear not. The recipes are built on a tasty foundation of honey (a low-glycemic sweetener rich in antioxidants), nuts, oats and canola oil. Fruits and spices are then added, making an open bag next to one’s desk impossible to resist. After indulging in the tasty Fruit and Nut variety, the High Protein variety, with its added soy protein, is a little tough to eat. But it sure is filling.
CONTACT: Bear Naked, (203) 655-4442, www.bearnaked.com.
Have you ever brought flowers to a friend, only to find there is no suitable vase to display them in? Britain’s PopVase ($21 for three) might be your new solution. Made from fair-trade and recycled paper, these waterproof, collapsible vases are easily portable and make great gifts. These paper vases are reusable, and can be stored compactly in your kitchen or office drawer for whenever an impromptu flower display is in order. The hand-folded vases come in a range of colors.
CONTACT: PopVase, +44 870-166-2663, www.popvase.com.
SCENTS THAT MAKE SENSE
Custom Corner Inc. has created an all-natural product that works great eliminating odors. Made with pure organic plant extracts and purified water, AriaBella is a safe, effective, non-aerosol spritzer that neutralizes odors rather than masking them. More than an air freshener, AriaBella has a light, pleasant fragrance that dissipates once the odor is neutralized. It is available in one- ($2.50), two-, four- and eight-ounce ($14.95) sizes and also comes in gel or candle form. Spritz two to three times into the air or directly on fabric and enjoy a fresh, clean environment.
CONTACT: Custom Corner, (480)699-2575, www.customcornerinc.com.
Photographer Linda Butler‘s elegy to the Yangtze River documents a landscape and a way of life radically disrupted by the damming of China’s Three Gorges. In 101 lustrous black-and-white photographs, Butler captures the transformation of a 360-mile sec
tion of the Yangtze from river to reservoir—a project that will force 1.3 million people to abandon their homes by 2009. Images in Yangtze Remembered: The River Beneath the Lake (Stanford University Press, $65) include that of a 400-year-old Buddhist temple, soon to be dismantled; the abstract patterns of tiled roofs seen from above; and a small boy whose fluffy white dog provides evidence of prosperity. Paired pictures show a steep misty gorge, then the canyon reduced by higher water to a rounded hillside. Butler discusses both the dam’s advantages (deep water for shipping, abundant electricity, flood control) and its potentially devastating consequences (the lake could become a cesspool, the weight of dammed water could cause earthquakes if tectonic plates shift). Butler’s photographs constitute a portrait of loss: of human communities, of their architectural and archeological legacy, and of the land itself.
EAT"IN WELL IN THE NORTHWEST
With Veg Out Vegetarian Guide to Seattle & Portland (Gibbs Smith Publishing, $12.95), eating healthy is not only convenient but is entirely hassle-free. In this newest addition to the Veg Out Vegetarian Guide series, George Stevenson and Andrew Evans, a travel writer and a chef, respectively, have gone through painstaking effort to create an easy-to-understand, no-hassle manual on eating healthy in two of the nation’s biggest alternative-eating markets. With brief, to-the-point descriptions of Portland and Seattle-area restaurants that cater to the vegetarian traveler, the manual details such pertinent information as prices, type of atmosphere and hours of operation. To make finding that special eatery easier, handy maps of the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas are included with numbers marking the restaurants. Who knew eating healthy could be this much fun?
ESSAYS FROM PRISON
For some people, love of nature knows no bounds. In Beyond Desert Walls: Essays from Prison (University of Arizona Press, $15.95), the physical boundaries of imprisonment are not able to keep award-winning nature author Ken Lamberton from conveying his fervent passion for the outdoors. In this book, Lamberton reflects back on his life and explorations of the natural world from his six-by-eight cell in the Arizona State Prison. Written over the course of a 12-year jail sentence resulting from a forbidden relationship, Beyond Desert Walls details the rich natural history of the region through the author’s bold explorations of caves, canyons and dry ponds. In Lamberton’s florid descriptions of the boundless natural world he is able to see from his cell window, contrasted with his morose descriptions of prison life, one gets the sense that nature is a metaphor for Lamberton’s own journey through life. The book is a thought-provoking account of one man’s quest to look beyond his prison cell and find inner peace through nature.
DOW AND YOU
Synthetic chemicals that persist in the environment know no limits. They do not respect property lines, or the boundaries of the human body. Even the most health conscious among us have no way to completely escape them. Jack Doyle‘s book Trespass Against Us (Common Courage Press, $24.95) argues that we have Dow Chemical to thank for these transgressions. Dow is the largest producer of what are known as building block chemicals, those that are purchased by other companies and turned into everything from plastic toys to Agent Orange. Shipped wholesale around the world, they enter our lives as any number of products. Many of these chemicals, we now understand, accumulate in nature, impacting the lives of birds, mammals, fish and plants through a process of slow and steady poisoning. Chocked full of history, facts and figures, Doyle’s book is a powerful indictment of the legacy of industrial chemistry.
COLD, COLD HEART
Recent headlines tell us that the Inuit, indigenous peoples of the Arctic, are bringing legal claim against the United States for violating their human rights. The reason: by being a major contributor to global warming, the U.S. is threatening the basis of their survival. Writer Gretel Ehrlich, whose book This Cold Heaven chronicles her travels with the Inuit of Greenland, understands well the impact of climate change on those who depend on the Arctic ecosystem. In her new book, The Future of Ice: A Journey Into Cold (Pantheon Books, $21.95), she widens her lens to take in the implications—physical, psychological and spiritual—for all of us if the ice disappears. She goes in search of winter and what’s happening to it, traveling to the Antarctic tip of South America, back up to Wyoming’s high country and finally to a research vessel testing the sea ice of the Arctic Circle. Ehrlich explores "silla," the Inuit idea that weather and human consciousness are bound up together. Her writing itself reflects this concept: objective fact and subjective experience are woven together with lyrical descriptions of place, scientific information and spiritual reflection. In The Future of Ice, Ehrlich gives us a reason to celebrate the beauty of winter and to act to save it.